Rad-Studio would win the City of Adelaide Prize if John Lethlean was the judge.
The architect of the city’s (second) most powerful pizza place shares what it means to him
Last year we published our inaugural list of Adelaide’s most powerful restaurants citing brand new pizza joint, Madre, as an exceptional entry due to instant line-ups and rave reviews from the seriously respected national food critic, John Lethlean.
We were pleased then to note Madre’s inclusion in this year’s City of Adelaide Prize as part of the SA Chapter of the Australian Institute of Architects Awards program, because – as we all know – what a place looks like can really determine the price you’re willing to pay for bread.
CityMag: What does Madre give to our city?
Chris Rowlands: Madre is nestled in the southwestern corner of the Adelaide CBD. It’s a pocket of our city that is mixed use; residential, commercial, retail, various hospitality offerings and vacant spaces. The project is a reactivation of a former restaurant site that has been dormant for years, a character facade on Gilbert Street with windows blacked out and no life. The advantages of this location is the mixed use and the amount of patrons a venue can service. The major disadvantage is not being in a hospitality hotspot.
The project is the reactivation of various dilapidated buildings, bringing them together as one cohesive space. Minimising contribution to landfill, we were able to embrace the former charm of the site and give it a new lease on life without removing its contribution to the streetscape. Since opening, Madre has been able to connect with its surroundings and become one of the locals in the community.
Given the location it was important for us to focus on how to engage with the immediate surroundings. Part of the solution is for pedestrians to be drawn into the experience. We want people to be engaged with the experience passing by, activating the streetscape. Part of our design approach was arranging the space so from the street you are drawn right through to the ‘staged’ kitchen.
The heart and soul of the venue is driven by Ettore Bertonati. Whilst its nice to celebrate input from architects & designers, really the primary experience is around the food and its conceptual offering. Ettore provided us with a very clear, detailed and passionate vision which landed the venue in the Weekend Australian 2019 Hot 50 Restaurants in the country.
In our current climate, Madre is still operating from the window that opens to the street, a voice engaging with the local community.
What role will design and architecture play in Adelaide’s recovery from the huge social and economic hit COVID-19 has caused?
As tough as COVID-19 has been for the greater community and economy, it feels like its given us a chance to breathe and reevaluate. I’ve always looked at our role as architects to be problem solvers with meaningful impact. The chance to sit back from a fast-paced life may refocus our problems that are looking for a meaningful direction. I sense some economic challenges may slow down the material views on architectural solutions, which isn’t a bad thing. I’ve gone to school in the CBD, university in the CBD, and worked various jobs in the CBD, and have never seen so many people using the Parklands. I know it’s not exactly isolating as we should, but perhaps its a good opportunity to engage and rethink the underused assets of our city. We are craving the social interactions as a community and I look forward to everyone coming together to work through and overcome the economic challenges.
Over the past three editions we’ve been asking the architects behind the city’s greatest architecture projects to tell us what those places mean to them. Last week we spoke with the designers of Part Time Lover, the St Aloysius College Mural and Paloma Bar and Kitchen and on Tuesday we featured the brains behind the Union House Cloister redevelopment, Tiki Tirka student accommodation and Sparkke at the Whitmore.
As this year’s media partner for the City of Adelaide Prize, CityMag wants to give the creative minds behind each project a platform to discuss the role of design in building a better city and what role design and architecture should play in rebuilding Adelaide after the huge social and economic hit we’ve taken as a result of COVID-19.
By COX Architecture
By Woods Bagot
These are the final three (of total nine) City of Adelaide Prize – nominees. PLEASE vote for the most influential, special, beautiful project and celebrate good design in our city here.